So my 9 y/o has taken up Minecraft. Apparently cake is a THING in Minecraft. Enough of a thing to have its own song. (<—- Link to the ten-hour loop, so you can experience what it’s like to live with a 9 y/o who never stops singing it. ) Boi has decided he’s interested enough in cake to actually want to make a real one. In spite of the mess, whenever Boi shows interest in learning something useful, I try to accommodate it. I enjoy the time with him, and as a mother, I generally consider my job to be, ultimately, to parent myself out of a job. Cooking is a fundamental life skill. It will save him a ton of money as an adult, give him a lot more control over what he and his family consume than he would have were he depending on prepared or processed foods, and hopefully someday serve as the same social anchor for his home one day that my kitchen is in mine.
We’re sort of big on from scratch cooking in our house, owing to hereditary chemical sensitivities, and general squeamishness with regards to preservatives and unlisted food additives, so when we bake a cake, with few exceptions, we do it from scratch. This is a simple white cake recipe that goes with everything, can be frosted whatever way you like and easily converts to other flavours, just by exchanging the vanilla extract for say, lemon. Or maple. Or rum. If you like spices, add 2 tsp of pumpkin pie spice and make spice cake. It’s that simple.
As I’ve begun to lose some of the use of my hands owing to an autoimmune condition that includes rheumatoid arthritis, my in-laws bought me a Kitchenaid stand mixer for Christmas, since I can no longer mix by hand. If you don’t have the same issues, your hand mixer, or even a whisk and some enthusiasm will serve you just as well.
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening (or butter, or margarine, you can substitute whatever you have)
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 egg whites
1 1/3 cups buttermilk (Note: normal people don’t keep buttermilk in the house. Take a tablespoon of lemon juice and put it in a bowl. Then pour 1 1/3 cups milk over it, stir, and let it stand for about a minute. Voila. Buttermilk.)
Oven 350 degrees
Grease and flour your cake pan (s) Pick 2 8″ or 9″ rounds, or an 8″ or 9″ square. If you really want easy removal, line the bottom with parchment. The easiest way to do this is to use the bottom of your cake pan to trace the shape onto the parchment, then cut it out and put in the bottom of your pan.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then set aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, or just a large mixing bowl if your in-laws don’t love you as much as mine love me, cream the 1/2 cup of butter, margarine or shortening. Add the sugar and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add the egg whites one at a time, beating well after each one. Add the dry ingredients in two steps, alternating with two additions of the buttermilk. (so half the dry, half the buttermilk, repeat) Beat on low speed until just combined. Pour into prepared pan (s) If you want to make coconut cake, this is a good time to add 1/4 cup of unsweetened flaked coconut.
Bake on center rack at 350 degrees 30-35 minutes. 45-50 if using a single pan.
While it’s baking is a good time to teach your kid about cleaning as he goes. Yes. I made him help with the dishes.
Cook times and oven temperatures vary, so pay attention and check on it when it starts to smell good. It’s done when a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If you don’t have wooden toothpicks, use your asbestos mom fingers and give it a gentle poke. If it springs back, it’s a good indicator that it’s done. Cool cakes IN PANS on wire racks for 10 min. Remove from pans, and cool completely on racks.
Basic White Frosting
1 cup shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons vamilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon, orange, or almond extract (whatever blows up your particular kilt)
4 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoons of milk
Paste icing colours to satisfy a 9 y/o who wants his cake to look like a minecraft ‘creeper’.
Beat shortening, vanilla and extract on setting 3 of stand mixer or with electric mixer on medium for about 30 seconds. Add HALF of the powdered sugar and mix well. Add 2 tbsp of milk, gradually beating in enough of the powdered sugar and milk to reach spreading consistency.